This has been a painful and frightening week for a lot of people. At a time like this — when there such immediate need for change in the world — it feels hard to justify the work of writing children’s stories. What could be more frivolous? In many ways, my book Sophie Quire was about this very question. But in the time since I finished Sophie, the question has only plagued me more. What is the point of a children’s story? It’s a good time to remember GK Chesterton’s words:
I might add something to this, which is that it’s important to write children’s stories so that the next generation can know a monster when they see it.
Last week I flew to DC to sit down with Raymond Arroyo on his show The World Over. I met Raymond at the LA Times Festival of Books last spring, and he’s a great guy who asks good questions … a few of which caught me off guard! Check it out!
A few years back, I helped write a short film for the very talented Ryan Kravitz, who had traded in a successful career as an art director to take up animation. It’s finished and out in the world now (apparently having racked up a ton of accolades), so I thought I’d post the link here.
Just as note as we approach this holiday season: If you want a signed/personalized copy of one of my books, please call Classic Lines Bookshop. They are right down the road and keep my books in stock — which makes it pretty easy for me to swing by and sign things. Just give them a ring and let them know you want a signed book shipped to your address. (If you want it personalized, make sure to let them what name you want in the book!)
Hello friends! It’s been a while since my last update, and that’s because I’ve been busily finishing my next book! It’s a companion to my first novel, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Here’s the amazing cover, drawn by Gilbert Ford:
The book comes out Spring 2016. It is without question the most monster-filled story I have ever written. Here’s the summary from the catalog:
Whenever I start a new book, I try to put together a soundtrack that makes me feel the way I want the story to make me feel. It’s a valuable tool, because at some point I become sick of my own book, and the songs help remind me what I’m aiming for. Screenwriter John August puts it well: “A good playlist helps you get started. A great playlist helps you finish.”
I thought I’d share some of the songs that helped me finish The Night Gardener. According to iTunes, I listened to these and a few other tracks more than 300 times …
As many of you know, last week was “Children’s Book Week.” Authors were asked to submit 1 min videos talking about books they love. I knew that wasn’t enough time, so I instead made my video into a sort of flashcard challenge:
I got a number of emails from people wanting to know all the book titles, so here’s the master list:
The Little Prince – Alice in Wonderland – The Golden Compass – A Little Princess – Darth Paper – Pinocchio – Rutabaga Stories – Mary Poppins – Bud, not Buddy – The Chocolate War – The White Mountains – The Witch of Blackbird Pond – The One and Only Ivan – Matilda – The High king – Holes – The Higher Power of Lucky – The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles – Five Children and It – The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane – Book of the Dun Cow – Howl’s Moving Castle – Peter and Wendy – The Twenty-One Balloons – Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle – A Wrinkle in Time – Little Women – The Princess Academy – The Graveyard Book – Charlotte’s Web – Dominic – Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Phantom Tollbooth – My Father’s Dragon – The Neddiad – Anne of Green Gables – Redwall – The Man in the Ceiling – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Winnie the Pooh – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
A few weeks ago, I did a Creative Mornings talk at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum on the topic of “Childhood.” This was my attempt to connect children’s literature to a broader audience–specifically talking about what it means to work in an industry where the audience (children) are separate from the buyer (grownups). Of special interest might be the anecdote I tell about Tom Angleberger at minute 15 … an event he has since claimed didn’t occur (it totally did). Also, of course, I finish things off with a yo-yo show!
Creative Mornings is a fantastic organization. Find out about the next event in your own city and check it out!
The hipster haunts every city street and university town. Manifesting a nostalgia for times he never lived himself, this contemporary urban harlequin appropriates outmoded fashions (the mustache, the tiny shorts), mechanisms (fixed-gear bicycles, portable record players) and hobbies (home brewing, playing trombone). He harvests awkwardness and self-consciousness. Before he makes any choice, he has proceeded through several stages of self-scrutiny. The hipster is a scholar of social forms, a student of cool. […] He is a walking citation; his clothes refer to much more than themselves. He tries to negotiate the age-old problem of individuality, not with concepts, but with material things.
I feel like a piece like this crops up every year or so, and the consistent factor in all these articles is that the author feels left out of a culture that he/she does not belong to. This article feels about as accurate as those that came out of 9/11 declaring that irony was “dead.” If anything, the hipsters I have known have been excessively earnest people … the only way you might think otherwise is if you were extrapolating their entire person from their clothes, facial hair, and twitter feeds. Lady Gaga may wear a meat dress, but she also gives speeches about bullying. Those same smirking “harlequins” were the ones who started the Occupy movement.
More importantly, I disagree with the premise that earnestness is inherently superior to irony. Since when has the ability to laugh — especially at oneself — been a bad thing?2 The author points to 4 year-old children and animals as exemplars of earnest behavior. From where I stand, those are not necessarily things for adults to aspire to. To celebrate humanity is to celebrate the ways we are different from animals — irony is one of the ways we can do that.
Sure, there’s a possible danger to too much detachment. And, as I’ve discussed before, it can be used to hurt people. But none of these things are unique to one generation.